Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Atheist - review

Written by: Christianna Mason (@Christianna_L_M)

The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London

Cynicism, sex and scandal: The Sun, take note. Augustine Early, an American journalist (Jonathan Chambers) talks us through his sleazy and opportunistic crawl to fame. A despicable premeditated trajectory, he manipulates any surprises to his advantage giving no regard to basic human decency. This one-man show churns us through an explicit series of deliciously disgraceful events.

However, he has so little room for redemption it becomes sluggish in parts. Right off the bat we are encouraged to revel in despising, nay loathing this character. He writes an article putting a rapist in good light and, by heavy implication, denounces the victim. Meanwhile in his personal life he tricks and sleeps with several women then proceeds to be extremely graphic about his exploits. So: not exactly man of the year. Still, his tongue-in-cheek attitude and incredible self-awareness have enough merit to keep us raptured. Chambers took a while to settle into the character, but pulled it off very convincingly and the only downside was the somewhat wandering accent in places that seemed to take us on a full tour of America.

The text lends itself to fantastic comedic moments; some of which are captured, others sadly undersold. One cannot help but feel that if the comedy was more pronounced and the imitation of other characters more lively, then the poignant moments would have more gravitas. The fragile memory (and rare display of humanity) of falling in love with his girlfriend while eating ice-cream in bed together was beautifully simple but just fell short of its full potential.

The minimalist set in a black box theatre is a good fit for such rich stories and enables Chambers to really engage with the audience by addressing us directly. The staging is fluid and simple while injecting seamless variety into the tempo. There was quite a full and varied audience (age-wise) which was lovey to see, although be warned this is definitely PG-13 material. The venue itself is above a lovely bright pub, done up in a very modern style. Although thankfully, unlike many pub-theatres, there was no problem with sound proofing.

Overall it is an interesting plotline with smooth transitions in stories and enough comic appeal to keep you gently chuckling throughout the evening. Worth a watch but it would benefit from a few adjustments.

This production runs until 24 November 2012. 

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